Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt In Crisis

As I watched the crisis in Egypt unfold on television, I kept hearing that one of the things that triggered this "revolution" is rising food prices. Apparently 40% of Egyptians live in poverty. That's enough to cause a revolution. Egyptians who were being interviewed by journalists stated that they wanted a better life for themselves, but most especially for their children. Who can blame them? What's happening in many countries in the modern world is going to have repercussions, the middle-class is struggling and the world is becoming a two class society-the rich and the poor. People want jobs and they want hopeful futures for their families. It's one reason, a big reason, the Egyptians are protesting, they want change, they want a hopeful future. They are tired of empty promises, they want the truth and they want real, constructive change.
I was reading the Sunday Scriptures this morning, in preparation for a discussion that I will lead this evening with a small group. The great Hebrew prophet Isaiah says it with conviction, "Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked, do not turn your back on your own........if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted then light shall rise for you in the darkness...."(Is. 58).
Very timely reading, considering what's going on in the world right now. The Church has always been on the side of the oppressed. Catholic social teaching upholds a preferential option for the poor. The means that all Christians (all believers should agree) should work to alleviate poverty and oppression. The needs and the concerns of the poor should have a high priority, so that there will be justice in the world. We should all be working and striving to bring forth God's reign and justice is a great part of that work. It's a great challenge and the gospel challenges us over and over again, to get it right and to be a light in the world for others.
To be a light we have to do our part. I'm looking forward to discussing the Scriptures this evening. I like to engage in conversation with like-minded people who are interested in what the Bible teaches. I hope it doesn't snow until after I arrive home. I feel like I've moved to Alaska. What a winter in the Northeast!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Book of Revelation Revisited

Unfortunately, we live in violent times. It can be argued that every age had times of violence but this first month of the year, the news was particularly violent. I recently read that "Eleven police officers were shot in five states in a 24-hour period, two of them fatally." According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, "For the month, the toll on police officers came to 14 fatalities." Steven Groeninger, a spokesman for the group said, "That's not normal."
The horrific massacre in Tucson, Arizona happened on January 8th. Six innocent people died tragically and twenty were injured.
What I am going to write are some of my thoughts, just ideas, but I thought readers of my blog might find these thoughts interesting.
When at the beginning of January thousands of birds died mysteriously and fell to the ground, in different places in the world and there were fish die-offs as well, I wrote a blog titled, "Are These Warnings?" which stated my concern about ecological degradation that is becoming more and more problematic in our world. In any event, after looking at the images of the dead birds, I was struck by something. One of the types of birds that had a massive die-off was the red- winged blackbird. When I looked at the pictures of the videos of the dead birds, what struck me was the color red on the wings of the birds. That's what caught my eye, it could have just been a coincidence but that drew my attention for some reason. I then looked through a New Collegeville Bible Commentary by Catherine Cory that I have on the Book of Revelation and on page 53 I found the following line, "In Revelation, red is the color of violence and bloodshed." I read that after I saw the images of the birds and I remember thinking, "What does this mean?" In Revelation, the "evil one" is imaged as a red dragon.
I watched an intersting video clip by Fr. James Martin on the America website. I thought it was good. In it he talks about the massive bird deaths and all the talk about Apocalypse. It's worth watching at YouTube. It's titled, "Apocalypse When?" One of the things that he said was that we shouldn't try to look into the Book of Revelation and try to interpret it literally......oh well, too late for that!
Let's pray that the rest of the year will be less violent and more peaceful. Please God!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Pushing the Envelope" Too Far

In today's New York Times there's an article on the front page titled, "A Racy Show With Teenagers Steps Back From a Boundary" by Brian Stelter. It tells about the provocative new MTV show "Skins," which features "the sexual and drug-fueled exploits of misfit teenagers." Executives have had some serious meetings of late about the show. It seems they are concerned that producers may be "pushing the envelope" too far and be violating federal child pornography statues. The youngest cast member on "Skins" is 15 years old. Apparently, executives of MTV want some episodes toned down. They don't mind "pushing the envelope" or angering parent groups or even defending their show, but they do mind going to jail.
"The planned changes indicate that MTV, which has been pushing the envelope for decades, may be concerned that it pushed too far this time.....Before it even had its premiere, the Parents Television Council, a TV watchdog group, labeled "Skins" the 'most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on your children.' The group objected to the gratuitous scenes of drug and alcohol use, violence and sexual acts."
It's so sad what young people have to deal with today and what their minds are being filled with. Mental health professionals are seeing the number of young people in college, who need counseling, double over years past. Sometimes it seems like the world is just spinning out of control and young people sense that. The images of real violence in society and scenes from television shows such as this one that is being described, are harmful for young minds, in my opinion.
According to a law professor at New York University, Amy Adler, "There are times when I look at mainstream culture and think it is skirting up against the edge of child pornography law." It seems she's right and the implications of that will affect society for years to come.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The New Year, Blogging And Reducing Stress

My New Year started out with sad news. When you get disappointing news, the first day of the year, as I did, it makes you wonder what kind of year it will be. I was annoyed that I had to get this news half way into the first day of the new year, over brunch, no less. Oh well....people are dealing with greater problems and sadly, tragedies and so I always try to keep things in perspective. Problems are a part of life and my faith always helps me deal with everything.
At the end of December, I made a short video of myself teaching prayer that I thought about putting up on my blog. I figured it would be a good way to introduce myself to the people who read my blog. I thought it was pretty good, especially when at the end, when I tried to stop the recording, (and didn't know how), I started calling for my sons to come into the room to stop it. That was the best part. It was the first time I tried to make a video of myself and the whole experience was rather funny. I was advised by family members not to place it on my blog. They didn't think it would be a good idea. Perhaps I'll revisit that idea in the future.
How do you keep sane in this sometimes chaotic, anxiety-filled, uncertain modern world we live in, when sad or tragic news is sometimes a phone call or e-mail away? Hopefully, you will get mostly good news in your life and you've found ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Stress is detrimental to good health. Life can by trying, at times. But as I've written over and over again, prayer, faith, a relationship with God and striving for peace in this world is so very important in order to stay spiritually, physically and mentally fit. Exercise is the number one stress reducer and a sure way to increase longevity, according to medical experts. Prayer and meditation (Christian meditation for Christians), is another way to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and according to an article I read this morning, it helps reduce the chances of heart attacks and strokes. It's free, no pills to take or pay for and all you have to do is find a quiet place and some time to reflect and unwind. I always begin with a mindful Sign of the Cross. I close my eyes and repeat the name of Jesus, silently or softly (it's called the Holy Name of Jesus prayer). You breathe deeply and evenly in the name of Jesus (through your nose) and breathe out one of the titles of Jesus (Savior, Redeemer, etc.). You keep doing that until you've calmed your mind, relaxed and entered a peaceful, meditative state. It's such a beneficial prayer, the name of Jesus is powerful, as you know and so it can help on many levels. I always end with an "Our Father."
According to Dr. Paul Moulinie, Director of the Center for Complementary Care at Huntington Hospital on Long Island, N.Y., "We must look for ways to experience the peace and tranquility that is inherent in all of us, and not become victims of the noise and stress all around....Not only does meditation promise to improve health and quality of life, it carries the hope of knocking cardiovascular disease off as the number one cause of death among Americans" (Healthy Living Digest-Anton Community Newspapers-1/11).
Good advice for the New Year.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Markings of the "Evil One"

After reading an article in the NY Daily News today, I wondered how much influence the "evil one" had on the horrific actions of the alleged killer in the mass murder in Arizona. This disturbing story is upsetting on so many levels. Judge John Roll who was killed had just left Mass, when he went to the event sponsored by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The young girl, Christina, (who was the granddaughter of Dallas Green) had received her First Holy Communion recently. Dorwin Stoddard, who was killed protecting his wife from the gunfire was a devoted Christian and a longtime minister of the tiny Mountain Avenue of Christ Church. All so good, all targets.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is Jewish is loved by her faith community. Her first name is the same as the archangel Gabriel. There are references to the angel Gabriel in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.
In the article, "Frightening Shrine in Madman's Yard," the presence of the occult in the life of the killer is mentioned. "A sinister shrine reveals a chilling occult dimension in the mind of the deranged gunman accused of shooting a member of Congress and 19 others. Hidden within a camouflage tent behind his home sits an alarming altar with a skull sitting atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges. A row of ceremonial candles and a bag of potting soil lay nearby...." There was a photograph in the newspaper and it was chilling as well. It was noted that, "The discovery of the 'shrine' raises the possibility that he may have been driven by other forces." The "forces" are clearly evil and I would imagine, (though I'm no expert) that the "evil one" must "prey" and influence those who have lost their grip on reality- the psychotic and deranged.
I wonder where his parents were and why they didn't take action to help him? According to reports, after his professor complained about his rantings in class, college officials made it clear to them that he needed help. He was expelled from college. A neighbor was quoted as saying, "It was obvious to everyone that he wasn't a normal guy." How did they allow a 'shrine' to the occult to exist in their backyard?
I spoke to Catholic parents yesterday in Queens, as I've done for the past few years and one of the things that I told them was "always know what your children are doing, be aware of who their friends are, be very observant." I also told them to pray with and for their children, as well as other advice on keeping their children away from evil and on the path of goodness and love. "You get one chance to get it right."
I observed a moment of silence today with the rest of the nation who did so. I prayed for the recovery of Rep. Giffords, for her family and for all those who lost loved ones. Those so brutally killed are in a better place, one of peace, but the loss that the living feel is painful and confusing. Sadly, their lives will never be the same.
This world needs prayer and healing more than ever. It's a difficult world to raise children in. The gift of faith and belief in eternal life, in the midst of crisis, is worth more than anything else.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Are These Warnings?

I tend to worry but I'm starting to think that perhaps we are getting warnings that things are not as they should be. If they are warnings, will we heed the warnings? A good question.
I don't think we are living in the end times, but there are a lot of people who do. The weird events that took place in the first hours and days of the New Year sparked a lot of new hype and discussion about the apocalypse. First thousands of blackbirds died in Arkansas and literally fell out of the sky and then there was a die-off of birds in Louisiana. There might be perfectly valid explanations and natural causes for these die-offs, but who knows. Then it was reported that over 80,000 drum fish in the Arkansas River died-off. Mass deaths of wildlife do sometimes happen because of natural causes but it's still unnerving.
Another thing that is concerning wildlife experts is the decline in the bumblebee population, which has been happening for years. In the past decades the bumblebee population has declined by 96%. According to an AOL article, "The population of bumblebees in the United States is in a free fall..........." This is similiar to a problem in Europe.
I hope future generations find solutions to these problems and have a greater respect and care for the Earth and all God's creatures. Future generations will have a lot to do to correct and restore what has been destroyed and neglected. Young people are smart and they'll have modern technology and advances in the natural sciences to help them, so I hope they'll meet the challenges ahead with ingenuity, great intelligence and care, because it will be greatly needed. They will also need to pray for God's guidance and help because they will need God's wisdom as well.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The New Year and Slushy New York

A Blessed and Happy New Year to all! I love the beginning of a new year, it's a great opportunity for all of us to make needed changes in our lives, to reassess our priorities, to start dieting again (for those of us who watch our weight) and make all those promises and resolutions to ourselves for self-improvement. At least that's what I do at the start of every new year. I know everything I should be doing to be healthier, more productive, more creative and calmer. Every year I get a little better at doing what I need to do to improve my health and I'm always trying to exercise more. Little changes here and there make a difference. I'm very self-reflective which is important. It's only because of prayer and the positive power of prayer that I am able to reflect, grow and make a little's an ongoing challenge. I like being a Catholic blogger (though it takes a lot of effort to keep this going). Writing is the creative endeavor that I love to do, so this blog gives me the opportunity to share my deep faith, some ideas and be creative at the same time. I pray it does some good, somewhere.
I enjoyed reading the recent article in the New York Times titled, "And Then, in a Grimy Squish, Came the Slush," by Michael Wilson. I loved the line, "Slush, The great equalizer." That's so true, though I had never thought about it before. "No one gets a slush day from work. Pretty people get just as wet as the rest. The newest iPad on the block does not help its user against slush. The expensive shoe sinks with the same squishy splash as the humble loafer, the grimace of its owner all the more dazzling with its whitened teeth. An ode, then, to slush, with its ugly little name." I love good writing!......Yes, I was in the city today, having brunch and I can tell you I dealt with slushy, muddy street corners and intersections that were a challenge to navigate.
The blizzard that arrived with full force on the day after Christmas, as most people know, caused quite a disruption in New York City and the surrounding areas. The night of the storm I couldn't sleep. I can't remember any blizzard I ever experienced, in my lifetime, that was accompanied by such high winds. It had hurricane force winds. I like to watch storms, they fascinate me, but watching the large trees bending back and forth and listening to the howling winds was unnerving. My cousins called from Marine Park, Brooklyn after the storm to complain that Brooklyn was a mess and there were no snow plows for days on side streets, all the stuff that was reported in the news, that made people irate. Over 400 buses were stuck in the snow and over 100 ambulances in the city, it was a nightmarish scenario. Let's hope this never happens again. I guess the investigations that will take place will help to prevent future failures of this sort, because it seems a lot went wrong.
A few months ago I wrote a blog about severe weather being the new norm, ("Freak Storms the New Norm?"). That wasn't my opinion, it was the prediction of some scientists who believe that because of global warming, we will experience more ferocious and unpredictable weather on planet Earth. Hope it's not the case, but it seems like there might be some truth to it. At least that's how I felt as I watched and experienced firsthand the storm's wrath bearing down. Of course, there are many scientists who don't believe global warming is happening at all. I wonder how many signs they will have to see, before they change their minds. Perhaps they never will. I wonder what they think about the catastrophe unfolding in parts of Australia with epic "biblical flooding" threatening cities and the Australian people. Or what happened in Russia this past summer when record heat caused drought and massive wildfires, with loss of life and homes?
I wanted to start off the new year with an upbeat, positive blog but that did not happen. Oh well, I hope and pray that "all will be well," and it will be a great new year for all. We need prayer and God more than ever. That's my humble opinion.

In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions. (Andrew Fraser-Queensland, Australian Treasurer)